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Review update: 2020 Fiat 500X Sport misses the mark

April 21, 2020

The 2020 Fiat 500X represents the best of what was once a promising reintroduction of the Italian brand to American soil about a decade ago.

It’s no secret Americans prefer crossovers over small city cars, no matter how round and cute and Italian. With the Fiat 124 Spider on life support, only the 500X and 500L small crossovers endure in America. For 2020, Fiat launched a new Sport trim to inject some life in the 500X, which is the brand’s best bet at staying alive.

The challenge for Fiat is the multitude of compact or subcompact crossovers on the market, including in Fiat’s own shrinking family with the inferior 500L. The 2020 Fiat 500X earned a TCC Rating of 5.6 out of 10, which is average for the segment and better than its platform-mate, the 2020 Jeep Renegade.

In our week with the 2020 Fiat 500X Sport, it went much further on Italian style than it did on overall value. That begs the question of what it’s worth to stand out a little. Artists and aesthetes might be enchanted by Fiat building off the X in sexy. Despite my appreciation for the arts, I equally value economics, so enchanted I was not. 

2020 Fiat 500X Sport

2020 Fiat 500X Sport

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

Hit: Distinct style

The 500X is like a Fiat 500 custom made for American tastes. It has the hallmarks of its namesake urban small car, with rounded, welcoming features not unlike the Volkswagen Beetle. Add Italian flair such as a mustachioed grille and American ruggedness such as faux skid plates, and the 500X is interesting enough to stand out, which is unusual for small crossovers. The Sport trim is mostly cosmetic and shaves off the fake front and rear skid plates that are present on the Trekking trims. It comes with buffer-looking 18-inch aluminum wheels (19 inchers are available) and body-color side moldings so it doesn’t look like every other small crossover wedged into a rubber-reinforced Keen sandal. 

The inside is where its cute bubbliness really takes hold, and Sport models get special mats, available leather bucket seats ($995), aluminum pedal surfaces, and all the Sport badging.

Miss: Narrow touchscreen

The 2020 Fiat 500X comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s winning Uconnect infotainment system. It’s embedded in the dash in bezels thicker than the screen itself. The backup camera looks tiny in all that black space, and it also didn’t work on one occasion (though I couldn’t  duplicate the issue). The mapping zoom button is tiny (and navigation costs $695 so stick with the standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto), but at least the circular buttons in the bezel below the screen maintain the cute rounded motif.

2020 Fiat 500X

2020 Fiat 500X

Hit: Smaller, more potent engine

Last year, Fiat streamlined the drivetrain to one choice, a 1.3-liter turbo-4 that makes 177-horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission and offered only with all-wheel drive. It’s more efficient and more potent than the outgoing 160-hp 1.4-turbo-4 that made 184 lb-ft of torque. While it improves by 1 mpg combined, it’s buzzy and, laggy from a stop, and the 9-speed hesitates on downshifts. It’s not good, but it’s better. 

Miss: Value

Standard all-wheel drive helps justify a starting price of more than $28,000, which is high for a small crossover. The pricey options on my tester, as well as the $1,495 destination charge on this import, brought the total to $35,895, which is simply too much money. The advanced driver assistance package ($1,395) and driver assistance package ($895) would be standard equipment on a similarly priced 2020 Hyundai Kona. The 19-inch wheels are packaged in the Premium Group with a dual-pane sunroof and a Beats audio system. I’ll take a hard pass, for $1,695, please. The only option I’d tick is the heated seats for $295. 

Still, the price of Sport is higher than the competition. A 2020 Kona in top Limited trim with AWD costs $28,620, but comes standard with many of the options on the 500X. Same goes with the 2020 Honda HR-V Touring. The 2020 Fiat 500X Sport starts competitively priced but you’d be leaving many features on the table that are included by the competition. 

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2020 Fiat 500X Sport

Base price: $28,490, including $1,495 destination

Price as tested: $35,895

Drivetrain: 177-hp 1.3-liter turbo-4 with a 9-speed automatic and all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 24/30/26 mpg

The hits: Distinct style, better powertrain

The misses: Odd touchscreen, poor value.

2020
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2020
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